Brainstorming Activities for Writing Creative Nonfiction in the Classroom

Monday, July 23, 2018 / Leave a Comment

For some, writing non-fiction can be harder than writing fiction because it requires that you write about real events. The prospect of writing a personal essay, in particular, can be daunting if you don't believe anything has happened in your life that is worth writing about. Here are some brainstorming activities teachers can use to help their students with creative nonfiction writing.

Ask Students What Topics Interest Them 

Whether this is a specific time period or current events happening right now, a helpful exercise is to ask students what people, places, events and other things fascinate them. Biographies, for example, are a form of creative nonfiction writing. Students may wish to write a creative nonfiction piece about their favorite historical figure. Students can be broken up into groups to discuss, or the discussion can be class-wide.

Tap Into Emotion 

Creative nonfiction writing is more about what someone felt during an event in their life rather than a strictly accurate presentation of the facts. For example, you can ask your students to think of a time when they felt the angriest they've ever been or a time when they felt elated. You can find printable writing prompts and activities for ideas. Exercises like these are broad and allow students to explore their inner selves, which is where personal essays come from.

Have Them Interview Each Other 

A good brainstorming exercise for creative nonfiction, especially if students aren't comfortable writing about themselves, is to have them interview each other and write about the experiences of a fellow student instead. The interviewed student can then give his or her feedback on the completed story to see how well it captured the reality they experienced. This is a good exercise in empathy as well, which is essential for all authors to develop, no matter what they write.

Give Them Time To Write 

At the end of the day, the key to writing creative nonfiction is to sit down and actually put words on the page. For this reason, allowing some time during class for everyone to sit quietly and write is a good brainstorming exercise in and of itself. Of course, be available to talk to students if they are having a difficult time coming up with something to write about. The point of the exercise, however, is to get them to practice by doing.

The writing process is going to be different for each individual. Remember this as you teach your students, because what works for you likely will not work for most of them. By using brainstorming activities, you will help your students generate good ideas to produce their best work. And then, when it’s all done, be sure to have them share! If you had them type up their final piece, have them print it, or print it yourself, which would be better so as not to pressure kids without printers at home (you can save a bit by being some affordable ink if you know their pieces are long). Then have them gather around and have them read a bit out loud in a group setting for positive feedback.

Be sure to check out more articles and ideas for your teaching needs here

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